As three more party leaders joined BJP Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate Pragya Singh Thakur in praising Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse and added to the party’s discomfiture, the BJP leadership cracked the whip Friday and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condemned Thakur’s remarks on Godse saying “it’s a different matter that she has apologised, I will not be able to forgive her from my heart”.
BJP president Amit Shah told a press conference that the party has initiated disciplinary action against Thakur, Union Minister of State Anantkumar Hegde and Karnataka MP Nalin Kumar Kateel for their remarks on Godse. He said the party’s disciplinary committee will be submitting a report in ten days for further action in the matter.
Separately, the BJP’s Madhya Pradesh unit suspended its media cell head Anil Saumitra from the party’s primary membership for calling Gandhi the “father of nation but of Pakistan”.
The BJP made Thakur withdraw from a roadshow and a rally scheduled Friday in Burhanpur for Khandwa candidate and former Madhya Pradesh party chief Nandkumar Singh Chouhan. The roadshow was held but the rally was cancelled.
Responding to a query from The Indian Express on whether the BJP regretted its decision to field Thakur in the polls given her remarks on Godse and on Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare who was killed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, Shah said: “Not at all… This (Thakur’s candidature) is a satyagraha against a fake case of saffron terror. This is a satyagraha against how Congress compromised the nation’s security for the sake of its votebank politics.”
“Some people were caught in the Samjhauta Express case, the CBI said these people are associated with the LeT. American agencies also supported this that these people are associated with the LeT. A fake case of saffron terror was made in which all have been acquitted. The courts have said that saffron terror is imaginary,” he said.
“So, who is responsible for the people released and granted Rs 5 lakh compensation, and security compromised for votebank politics? The Congress party is responsible. I demand that the Congress president apologise for defaming Hindu culture and compromising national security,” he said.
* Thakur created an uproar a day earlier when she called Godse a “deshbhakt”: “Nathuram Godse was a patriot, is a patriot, and will remain a patriot… those who call him a terrorist should look within… they will get a reply this election.”
* Anantkumar Hegde had tweeted: “Am glad that 7 decades later today’s generation debates in a changed perceptional environment and gives good scope for the condemned to be heard upon. #NathuramGodse would have finally felt happy with this debate.”
On Friday, after being pulled up, he tweeted: “My account was hacked since yesterday. There is no question of justifying Gandhiji’s murder. There can be no sympathy or justification of Gandhiji’s murder. We all have full respect for Gandhiji’s contribution to the nation.”
* Nalin Kumar Kateel, BJP MP and candidate for Dakshin Kannada, had tweeted in Kannada: “Godse killed one, Kasab killed 72, Rajiv Gandhi killed 17,000. You judge who is more cruel in this??” On Friday, he said: “I have noticed that my last two tweets have been criticized. I am sorry if someone has been hurt. I didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings. Since I came to know my tweets were hurtful, I take them back. The discussion ends here.”
As the party disowned the remarks, Modi too stepped in to slam Thakur. Responding to a query from the News24 TV channel, he said: “The kind of remarks, statements made about Gandhiji and Godse is horribly wrong (bhayankar kharab). It is hateful, and these should be criticised and condemned in every which way. There is no place for such language, thinking in any civilised society. Those who do such things will have think a hundred times in future. It’s a different matter that she has apologised, I will not be able to forgive her from my heart.”
Shah said there would be “action” against the leaders who commented on Godse. “We have decided to issue showcause notices. Once their responses come, disciplinary committee will take a decision. That’s the system in the party. The entire BJP is upset, that’s why prompt action has been taken. The disciplinary committee has already issued notices and given ten days to respond. Appropriate action will be taken,” he said.
The swiftness with which the party initiated disciplinary action and the Prime Minister’s response are seen as attempts to check the loose cannons who have been embarrassing the BJP. In the past, such steps were not taken.
Seven months after Modi led BJP to a stunning victory in the 2014 elections, BJP MP from Unnao, Sakshi Maharaj, told the media outside Parliament House: “I believe Nathuram Godse was also a nationalist and Mahatma Gandhiji also did a lot for the nation. Godse was an aggrieved person. He may have done something by mistake but was not an anti-national. He was a patriot.”
The remarks led to an uproar in both Houses with the Congress-led Opposition demanding an apology. Sakshi Maharaj had to express regret before Lok Sabha: “I express regret before the House and the country… I do not consider him a rashtrabhakt (patriot). I might have said something by mistake.”
In 2015, BJP’s national social media head Amit Malaviya had also tweeted: “Nathuram Godse had reasons to assassinate M K Gandhi.”